Fertility Rates
(Children per Family)
World Statistics


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United States Canada United States Mexico Belize Guatemala Honduras El Salvador Nicaragua Cuba Jamaica Haiti Dominican Republic United States Costa Rica Panama Columbia Venezuela Ecuador Peru Guyana Suriname French Guyana Bolivia Paraguay Chile Argentina Brazil Uruguay Denmark United Kingdom Iceland Trinidad and Tobago Ireland Norway Sweden Denmark Andorra Estonia Latvia Lithuania Germany Netherlands Belgium Switzerland Spain Liechtenstein Italy France Portugal Luxembourg Poland Czech Republic Slovakia Austria Hungary Moldova Belarus Ukraine Finland Romania Bulgaria Yugoslavia Albania Greece Afghanistan Algeria Angola Armenia Australia Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Benin Bhutan Morocco Tunisia Libya Egypt Mauritania Mali Niger Chad Sudan Eritrea Djibouti Ethiopia Somalia Togo Ghana Sierra Leone Liberia Cote D'Ivoire Guinea-Bissau Guinea Gambia Senegal Burkina Faso Nigeria Cameroon Equatorial Guinea Gabon Congo (Brazzaville) Central African Republic Rwanda Burundi Uganda Kenya Congo (Kinshasa) Malawi Tanzania Zambia Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Botswana Namibia South Africa Madagascar Israel Lebanon Syria Jordan Kuwait United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudi Arabia Iraq Georgia Turkey Turkmenistan Tajikstan Kyrgystan Uzbekistan Kazakhstan Iran Nepal Pakistan Sri Lanka India Vietnam Laos Cambodia Thailand Myanmar Malaysia Mongolia North Korea South Korea Japan Taiwan Philippines New Zealand China Indonesia Papua New Guinea Russia Cyprus Fiji

Map Key
Color Fertility rate Long-term impact
Red less than 2 declining population
Yellow about 2 stable population
Green 3 to 4 growing population
Blue 4 or more rapidly growing population
Gray data not available
Click on a country to go to its entry in the table below. (Note: This may not work on your browser.)

It was tough to cram all these countries into the map. If a country you are interested in is not marked as a separate country on the map, check the table, we probably have it in there. Our apologies to people from countries that we didn't manage to fit in. No insult intended: we were trying to make this map all fit on the screen at one time, even for people with low-resolution screens, and something had to give.

Discussion

Why is fertility rate important?

Fertility rate is, basically, the number of children that the average woman will have in her lifetime.

If the average woman has exactly two children in her lifetime, this is just enough to replace herself and one man, and thus maintain the population.

Ultimately, this is the only thing that matters in determining long-term population growth. If the average woman has two children, then the number of people in the next generation will be the same as the number of people in this generation. You often hear people say that improved diet or medicene or other things that cause people to live longer cause population to grow, or that wars or other disasters cause population to shrink. But this is only true indirectly: only if it changes the number of children that the average woman has in her lifetime. That is, if many women die while still young, they may not live long enough to have all the children that they otherwise might have had. But beyond that, how long people live doesn't matter. Everybody still dies sooner or later. If a war wipes out a large number of people, this causes an immediate drop in the population, of course. For the time that the war lasts population growth becomes negative. But once the war is over, if the number of children per woman is the same, the old population growth rate will immediately resume. There is a temporary change in the total numbers, but the rate of growth does not change.

How is fertility rate calculated?

The alert reader may have noticed that in my definition of fertility above I threw in the qualifying word "basically". You might at first think that it would be easy to calculate the number of children that the average woman has in her lifetime: Just add up the number of children that each woman has and divide by the total number of women. But there's a catch: To do that would require that we wait until all the women that we are interested in have lived their entire lives and died (or at least, lived long enough to have passed their child-bearing years). But we want to have a number now, not fifty years from now. Besides, when would we start and stop? By the time we've waited forty or fifty years move women have been born and had children.

So the way we really calculate fertility is like this: For a given year, we count the percentage of women of any given age who had a child that year, total up these percentages for all ages, and divide by 100. For example, suppose -- just to make things simple for an example -- that women only have children when they are between the ages of 18 and 21, and that there are no twins or other circumstances where a woman has more than one child in a year. Then say that 20% of the 18-year-olds had a baby, 40% of the 19-year-olds, 50% of the 20-year-olds, and 30% of the 21-year-olds. Adding these up gives 140%, so the average woman in this hypothetical society has 1.4 children in her lifetime.

Of course in real life women women are typically having children from ages 17 or 18 up to their 30's, and some have children even younger or older, so there are a lot more than four numbers to add together. But the princple is the same as the example; the calculations are just more tedious.

This sounds like it should give an exact number, but in fact there's one big catch: Some women don't live to reach any given age. When we count what percentage of women of a given age have a baby this year, of course we're only counting the percentage of living women. Going back to our example, suppose that in this hypothetical society, not only do women only have children between the ages of 18 and 21, but also suppose that half the women die the day before their 21st birthday. Then even though 30% of the 21-year-olds are having a baby, this is not 30% of the women who were born 21 years ago, because half of those women are dead. It's really only 15% of the women who are 21, or who would have been 21 if they were still alive. (Assuming none of the women die before they reach 20 for some other reason.) Thus, the actual number of children per woman is more like 1.25.

So the number would be more accurate if instead of counting the percentage of, say, women age 21 who have children this year, we could count the percentage of women who were born 21 years ago who have children this year, including both the living women and the dead women. (Of course the dead women are not having children -- barring some weird horror movie plot -- but including them in the calculation reduces the percentage.) Unfortunately, people just don't keep statistics this way, so we don't have the information available to calculate this.

Another minor adjustment is that slightly more boy babies are born than girl babies, so a woman must have slightly more than two children to make up for this. That is, as fewer girls are born than boys, each girl was to work a little harder at the baby business to make up the difference.

In practice, then a calculated fertility rate of 2.0 doesn't really mean that the population is exactly replacing itself: it's slightly short. For wealthy places with good medical care, like North America and Europe, maintaining the population requires a calculated rate of about 2.1 to 2.2. For poorer countries, where many women don't live out their child-bearing years, and many little girls don't live long enough to have even one child, the calculated rate must be significantly higher.

So countries with fertility rates less than 2.0 (or 2.2) are shrinking?

Not necessarily: Life is more complicated than that.

The calculated fertility rate is a trend for a given period of time. Many other factors are involved.

Some are simple: For example, if a country has many immigrants, even if the natives aren't having many babies, the population could still be growing.

Some are more complex: Suppose that in a given society the average woman is having less than two children. But right now the number of women in their child-bearing years is very large compared to the number of older people. With fewer older people, the death rate will be low, so for a time the relatively small number of children born could still be enough to make up for the older people dying. Such a situation could last for decades. Eventually, this "bulge" of people in child-bearing years will grow old and be replaced by a smaller generation. Now there are a large number of old people dying off, while there is a smaller set of people in their child-bearing years to produce their replacements. Even if they have significantly more than two children per woman, that might not be enough to replace all the old people dying.

In fact, this is exactly what is happening in the United States and some European countries right now. Woman are not having enough children to replace themselves-plus-one-man. But it so happens that there are an unusually large number of women of child-bearing age compared to the number of old people, plus these countries have relatively high rates of immigration, so the population continues to grow despite the low fertility rate.

But this can't last forever. Ultimately fertility rates will have to rise or population will begin to fall.

It's always dangerous to project current trends decades into the future. Life is too complicated for that. But if fertility rates continue, then within a few decades the population of the United States and Europe will begin to fall. This is already happening in Russia and Italy. Some statisticians have estimated that were it not for illegal immigrants, the population of the United States would be falling today.

Detail

Country Fertility rate
Afghanistan 6.9
Albania 2.5
Algeria 3.8
Andorra n/a
Angola 6.8
Antigua n/a
Argentina 2.6
Armenia 1.5
Australia 1.8
Austria 1.4
Azerbaijan 2.0
Bahamas 2.6
Bahrain 2.9
Bangladesh 3.1
Barbados 1.5
Belarus 1.4
Belgium 1.6
Belize 3.7
Benin 5.8
Bhutan 5.5
Bolivia 4.4
Bosnia 1.3
Botswana 4.4
Brazil 2.3
Brunei 2.8
Bulgaria 1.2
Burkina Faso 6.6
Burundi 6.3
Cambodia 4.6
Cameroon 5.3
Canada 1.6
Cape Verde 3.6
Central African Republic 4.9
Chad 6.1
Chile 2.4
China 1.8
Colombia 2.8
Comoros 4.8
Congo (Brazzaville) 6.1
Congo (Kinshasa) 6.4
Cook Islands n/a
Costa Rica 2.8
Cote D'Ivoire 5.0
Croatia 1.6
Cuba 1.5
Cyprus 2.0
Czech Republic 2.0
Denmark 1.7
Djibouti 5.3
Dominica 2.0
Dominican Republic 2.8
Ecuador 3.0
Egypt 3.0
El Salvador 3.2
Equitorial Guinea 5.6
Eritrea 5.6
Estonia 1.3
Ethiopia 6.3
Fiji 2.7
Finland 1.7
France 1.7
Gabon 5.4
Gambia 5.2
Georgia 1.9
Germany 1.3
Ghana 5.2
Greece 1.3
Grenada n/a
Guatemala 4.9
Guinea 5.5
Guinea Bissau 5.8
Guyana 2.3
Haiti 4.4
Holy See n/a
Honduras 4.3
Hungary 1.4
Iceland 2.1
India 3.1
Indonesia 2.6
Iran 2.8
Iraq 5.3
Ireland 1.9
Israel 2.7
Italy 1.2
Jamaica 2.5
Japan 1.4
Jordon 4.9
Kazakhstan 2.3
Kenya 4.4
Kiribati n/a
Korea (North) 2.0
Korea (South) 1.7
Kuwait 2.9
Kyrgyzstan 3.2
Laos 5.8
Latvia 1.3
Lebanon 2.7
Lesotho 4.8
Liberia 6.3
Libya 3.8
Liechtenstein n/a
Lithuania 1.4
Luxembourg 1.7
Macedonia 2.1
Madagascar 5.4
Malawi 6.8
Malaysia 3.2
Maldives 5.4
Mali 6.6
Malta 1.9
Marshal Islands n/a
Mauritania 5.5
Mauritius 1.9
Mexico 2.8
Micronesia n/a
Moldova 1.8
Monaco n/a
Mongolia 2.6
Morocco 3.1
Mozambique 6.3
Myanmar 2.4
Namibia 4.9
Nauru n/a
Nepal 4.4
Netherlands 1.5
New Zealand n/a
Nicaragua 4.4
Niger 6.8
Nigeria 5.2
Niue n/a
Norway 1.9
Oman 5.9
Pakistan 5.0
Palau n/a
Panama 2.6
Papua New Guinea 4.6
Paraguay 4.2
Peru 3.0
Philippines 3.6
Poland 1.5
Portugal 1.4
Qatar 3.7
Romania 1.2
Russia 1.4
Rwanda 6.2
Saint Kitts n/a
Saint Lucia n/a
Saint Vincent n/a
Samoa 4.2
San Marino n/a
Sao Tome n/a
Saudi Arabia 5.8
Senegal 5.6
Seychelles n/a
Sierra Leone 6.1
Singapore 1.7
Slovakia 1.4
Slovenia 1.3
Solomon Islands 4.9
Somalia 7.3
South Africa 3.3
Spain 1.2
Sri Lanka 2.1
Sudan 4.6
Suriname 2.2
Swaziland 4.7
Sweden 1.6
Switzerland 1.5
Syria 4.0
Taiwan n/a
Tajikistan 4.2
Tanzania 5.5
Thailand 1.7
Togo 6.1
Tonga n/a
Trinidad 1.7
Tunisia 2.6
Turkey 2.5
Turkmenistan 3.6
Tuvalu n/a
United Arab Emirates 3.4
Uganda 7.1
Ukraine 1.4
United Kingdom 1.7
United States 2.0
Uruguay 2.4
Uzbekistan 3.5
Vanuatu 4.3
Venezuela 3.0
Vietnam 2.6
Yemen 7.6
Yugoslavia 1.8
Zambia 5.6
Zimbabwe 3.8

Source: Abortion Policies: A Global Review, © 2001 by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division.

For most countries, the data is based on the years 1995-2000. Different periods were used for some countries when data for these years was unavailable.


Pregnant Pause Home Statistics Search this site

Posted 3 March 2003.

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